Hotels must personalise service and retain the human touch when introducing cutting-edge technology, according to a new report from business advisory company Grant Thornton.
The power of personal: Hotels road map to 2020
However, there is concern that hotels are cutting back on research and development in digital solutions. Grant Thornton's International Business Report finds that just 10% of tourism companies globally plan to increase spend in this area in 2016.
Gillian Saunders, global leader for travel, tourism and leisure at Grant Thornton, warned that greater investment in technology and in training staff should be a priority for hotel staff if they are to keep pace with the disruptors who are a step ahead.
"Personalise or perish should be the mantra at the heart of hotel companies' efforts to build their brands and lay platforms for long term-success," she said. "Too many hoteliers are yet to fully embrace big data.
"Without analytics technology and sufficiently trained staff to make sense of the noise, they can't plot how to enrich guest experiences from pre-arrival to post-departure. At the same time, the new tools which allow for more targeted services risk diverting attention from the very skill on which the hotel industry was built - human interaction."
Grant Thornton's report points to examples of hotel brands making innovative use of data to personalise the experiences of guests. They include Starwood Hotels, where guests can bypass check-in and unlock their rooms with their smartphones; and the Bratislava Sheraton's use of guests' social media 'likes' to present tailored gifts upon check-in.
The report also offers seven areas where hotels can deploy technological and human innovations to improve the customer experience. They include understanding that the guest journey begins long before they arrive in reception, and using algorithms to show customised offers to customers based on searches. At the hotel, technology can be developed to let customers check in, control their room temperature and even customise the room layout. And once guests leave, recording individual preferences should ensure a more enjoyable repeat experience.
The power of personal report will be launched at the International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin this week.